Part 9: Uspallata to San Jose de Jachal


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The Trip

We spent the night at the so-called Grand Hotel in Uspallata.  While not grand, it was quite a bit nicer than some of the other places that we stayed on this adventure.  The food was just so-so and there was no choice as the entire service was banquet-style.  But, Uspallata is a very small town and we were winded from the long drive up to the crest of the Andes and were grateful for what we got.  After breakfast the next morning, we broke camp and headed into the small town of Uspallata for fuel and some supplies.  From Uspallata we headed north along the foothills of the Andes toward Barreal. 

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

As we were searching for the fuel station we passed this 416 mog that has been converted into a tourist hauler.  We stopped to check it out and Kathleen voiced her approval.  While not as big or powerful as our 1300L, I am sure that this rig gets around just fine.

Just north of Uspallata, the terrain opened up and gave an unobstructed view of the Andes.  This small photo does not do justice to the grandeur of the view.  Huge mountains and not a tree to be seen anywhere; the mountain was completely barren.  I am guessing that the upper peaks that are visible are over 15,000 feet, maybe higher.

I assembled a panorama of 10 shots with the camera positioned in portrait mode so the long pixel count was horizontal.  The resulting panorama is about 20,000 x 5,000 pixels with a size of about 26 MB.  The full-size panorama can be seen by clicking on the photo above.  When the image loads into your browser, you can zoom within the image by clicking on it again.  Hit "back" to return to this page.

While taking photos for the panorama, this older Scania truck passed us on the road.  It looked pretty beat-up, but the motor sounded strong.

Further north from Uspallata we were provided new views of the Andes.  Note the huge rock palisades near the highest peak.  These were vertical cliffs thousands of feet high.

We passed a number of areas where the rocks changed color indicating mineralization.

Further north we stopped for a bio-break and were able to get a closer view of the terrain.  There is minimal ground cover and what is there is likely unappealing to cattle and goats.  Cresote was the primary vegetation.  The valley was at least 50 miles long and was part of a local "estancia".

Our little rental car looked totally out of place in the Chaco.  We were surprised that the road turned to dirt, but we continued on anyway.  Hey, it's a rental.

We passed a sign that said "Estancia Yalguaraz: private property, no tresspassing, no hunting, no fishing".  The last part must have been a joke as there was no water anywhere.  We surmised that the ranch house for the estancia was in the trees in the distance, the only trees for 50 miles, save 2 lone trees.

In all this wide open space, the only trees to be seen not associated with human irrigation at the ranch house.  These trees are close to a dry lake bed at the center of the photo above.

South of Barreal we crested a ridge and got a great view of a huge thunderhead building over a dry lake.  It never rained on us, but the wind was blowing hard.

We got into Barreal and had a passing fantasy about staying in the pueblo.  We followed signs to an inn but the road turned into a grove of trees by an abandoned adobe structure.  Undaunted, we followed the path.

The path ended at the inn's ranch house.  This was a really nice place and we were quite hungry so we parked the car and went inside.

We passed a number of little casitas for the guests.  There were perhaps 10 or so clustered around the main house.

Inside, we were impressed with what we saw.

Nice open beam ceiling and fireplace.

No inn is complete without a bar.

I stuck my head into the cocina looking for the desk clerk, but nobody was around.  The kitchen was modern with nice fixtures.  We finally gave up and were leaving the building when we came upon the caretaker.  We were disappointed to learn that they were booked for the next few days, and particularly bummed to learn that if we had acted 16 hours earlier, one of these casitas would be ours.  We accepted our fate and followed the path back to Barreal and found a small restaurant that was open and had a very tasty sandwich.  While eating, the waiter asked us if we had seen the river to which we responded "what river".  He gave us directions and we headed out after eating.

We followed the waiter's directions to the banks of the Rio del Patos (Duck River).  From the banks, we could see the thunderstorm working on the flanks of the Andes.  The "blurry" area is the photo above are sheets of rain.  The whitish area on the mountain ridge is snow deposited by the passing thunderstorm.  The Rio del Patos flows through a huge bed of alluvial cobbles.  These banks of alluvium stretched for dozens of miles.

Most of the river banks were bare cobbles except for a small area of pampas grass and a young cottonwood tree.

We followed the Rio del Patos north along the foothills and encountered another area of colored rocks.

We stopped to admire the colored cliffs and noted the signs of a fault.  Note the folding in the center of the photo above.

A bit further north, we came upon a section of rocks that were dark violet in color.

The violet was intermixed with the lighter colored rock.

Nearby was an area with intensely folded rock.  Note the wrinkles and swirls.

The colors in the rock were as vivid as anything I have ever seen, including Calico, CA.

This section of rock had intrusive dikes and sills of lighter colored material.

We turned east at a fork in the road and headed into a side canyon.  The road was hammered and in really bad shape.  There had been sufficient rain to cause every side creek to spill alluvium onto the roadway.  It was 4 feet deep in some areas.  Many rock slides had occurred and had subsequently been cleared, but damaging the roadbed in the process.  A new road was under construction, but we traveled for miles on dirt.  On the hillside, we spotted heavy equipment carving away at the cliff generating fill for the new roadbed.

We were rather disappointed that we were unable to stay at the Rio Pato Inn, but we were slow on the draw.  Maybe next time.  From the Rio del Patos we traveled many miles through narrow canyons and over tall ridges to get us to the small town of San Jose del Jachal.  Kathleen managed to find us a room at the Plaza Hotel, but it was really basic in every respect.  But after a long day of driving on narrow roads and frequent road hazards, even basic is good.

Tomorrow, we continue north toward several national parks in the nearby mountains.

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